FamilyLife Today®

Trading Whining for Honor, Part 1

with Joanne Miller, Scott Turansky | May 1, 2006
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What is whining really all about? Today on the broadcast, Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, authors of the book Say Goodbye to Whining, talk to parents about teaching kids to honor others.

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  • What is whining really all about? Today on the broadcast, Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, authors of the book Say Goodbye to Whining, talk to parents about teaching kids to honor others.

Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller talk to parents about teaching kids to honor others.

Trading Whining for Honor, Part 1

With Joanne Miller, Scott Turansk...more
May 01, 2006
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Child: What is this?

Bob: Well, little girl, this is FamilyLife Today, and this is the number-one all-time song on the Parents' Hit Parade.

Child: I don't really like this.

[Music – "Say Goodbye to Whining"]

Child: I want an Icee.

[Music – "Say Goodbye to Whining"]

Child: I want French fries.

[Music – "Say Goodbye to Whining"]

Child: Mom, look at me.  I want an Icee.  Mawwwwwwmmmmm, he hit me.

Child: He got more than I did.

Child: Mawwwwwwmmmmm.

Child: He never takes out the trash.

Child: Mawwwwwwmmmmm.

Child: You always make me take out the trash.

Child: When are we going to be there?

[Music – "Say Goodbye to Whining"]

Child: What is this?

Child: Mawwwwwwmmmmm, Mawwwwmmmm, Maawwwwwmmm.  He hit me.

Child: Moooooom, he's looking at me again.

Teenager: Are we done yet?

Teenager: These headphones are so uncomfortable.

Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.

Dennis: You didn't tell me you were recording that at my house about 10 years ago.

Bob: That was just the background sounds that we recorded at your house.  Of course, the two singers there was that famous lounge act of Turansky and Miller, and they join us on the program.

Dennis: That's right.  They are the authors of a book we're going to be talking about called "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids."  And there's a picture of a kid on the front.  I don't know what they paid this kid to look like this, but it looks like me when I was a kid, honestly, it really does.  Scott, JoAnn, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

Scott: Thank you very much, Dennis, it's good to be with you.

JoAnn: Hey, we're happy to be here.

Dennis: Let me introduce these folks to you.  Scott's a pastor on the East Coast, homeschooling father of five, speaks at parenting seminars all across the country.  JoAnn Miller is a pediatric nurse, a homeschooling mother of two – that's courageous enough right there – counselor, public speaker, and author and together they speak at – well, I've heard a message, Bob, that they've done about dealing with whining and complaining in your kids.

Bob: You know, there does seem to be a stage through which children go where there is a lot of whining and complaining.  It starts when they're born and continues pretty much forever.

Dennis: In fact, in honor of our children, okay?  In honor of complaining and all that they whine about, I have rewritten Galatians, chapter 5, verses 19 through 21 in honor of the decayed, depraved natures of toddlers to teens, and I want to ask our guests on the broadcast today, Scott and JoAnn, just to see how I've done here.  Okay, this is the passage that talks about the deeds of the flesh, all right, but I'm going to give you the Rainey-inspired version of this in honor of the broadcast today – "But the deeds of the youthful flesh are evident, which are undone chores and dirty rooms, meanness, sassiness, rolling eyes, slamming doors, and the stomping of feet; outbursts of biting, hitting, name-calling, cutdowns, tattling and taunting and disrespectful attitudes.  Now abide bossiness, boasting, and whining, but the greatest of these is whining."  Does that occur at your house, Scott?

Scott: It does, it does, it's a continual process, and one of the things we say that is if we don't help children deal with whining and complaining when they're young, they grow up to be adults who whine and complain.

Dennis: Yeah, and I have to be honest with you, this is something that Barbara and I struggle with, and I've got to believe that if we struggle with it – I'm not talking about in our kids, but we've had to struggle with it personally about complaining, and it has showed up in our character.  In fact, that's how I became convinced that we had a problem, and we had to deal with it as well.  And, JoAnn, you all really teach about this in your seminars when you train parents on how to handle complaining that ultimately the real problem starts with parents, right?

JoAnn: Well, certainly, we think that it's a problem that we see in children and adults and often when change is going to take place in a family, we need to look to the parents first.  If parents can change, then they can bring about these same changes in their children, but it does – it starts with the adults in the family, the parents, and how they're going to treat the children.

Dennis: You all believe that the way to begin to handle whining and complaining is to teach your children how to honor one another.

Scott: That's right.

Dennis: Romans, chapter 12, verse 10 says "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love in honor giving preference to one another."

Bob: But you've got to be, like, 30 before you can apply that verse, don't you?  I mean, it feels that way – I could read that to my kids tonight at the dinner table and say, "Do we believe this is true?"  "Yes, we believe this is true."  "Can we do this?"  "Oh, sure."  And five minutes later there would be a problem.  What is it about being a child that causes this to be a hard verse to apply?

Scott: We believe that because children are basically selfish that often what happens is that children, when they bring problems to their parents, do it in a selfish way.  That selfishness exhibits itself in things like whining and complaining.  What we're trying to help children learn to do is to bring problems to their parents in more mature ways, and so we're not going to put up with the same kind of responses that we get with our children, because what we're trying to do is teach them how to honor each other – honor addresses the way we relate in family life.

 That's very important.  We can tell a child, "I want you to go change that dirty shirt."  Well, if he goes off stomping or rolling his eyes or making a grumbling comment on the way, that's dishonor, and what we're trying to do is help children see it and know how to make the changes.  Obedience is great.  We want to help children learn to follow directions, a very important part of setting limits, helping children follow directions, but we want more than that.  We want to address the honor, the relationship patterns that often exist in family life.

Bob: JoAnn, there is an inherent selfishness that Scott's talked about.  That's something that's a part of all of us.  Kids lack some of the skills that we have for masking our selfishness, and so it's right out there, right in your face, right in front of you as a mom or as a dad, and it's pretty ugly.

JoAnn: Yes, we get to see it firsthand, they don't cover it up too much, they just show us.  You know, if they want something, they tell us they want it, and if they don't like what their brother has, they tell us they don't like what their brother has.  The benefit there is that we get to work on it.  We can see it.  Sometimes kids don't see it, though.  It's remarkable what's so clear to us, but they don't see it in themselves.  So we want to take some steps to show it to them, but we want to do it in an honoring way, also, as parents.  The way we treat our children has a lot to do with how they learn to treat one another.

Bob: And this manifests itself in different ways at different developmental stages in a child's life.  I mean, the selfishness at age three, where you're grabbing for a toy from your brother and "That's mine," is different than the selfishness at age 12 where you're not going to be bossed around by anybody.

Scott: Yes, and teenagers experience a whole different kind of selfishness that needs to be addressed.  What we're trying to do is give some practical ideas, practical suggestions for parents, so that parents know exactly what they can do, how they can target these issues.  That doesn't mean it's going to be easy, but we're not interested in just behavior modification.  We're interested in helping children change their hearts.  It takes more work, but that's where the solutions, the long-term solutions, come.

Dennis: You all focus on this subject of honor as we address the problem of whining.  Why is honor so central to being good parents?

Scott: God gives two commands in His Word that deal with children.  One of those is obedience.  Parents often spend a lot of time teaching their children how to follow directions.  They want to help their children follow through, and they teach obedience often if they're going to work on their parenting.  But what about honor?  Often, honor is lacking in a family.  Honor addresses the way that we relate together.  It addresses things like bickering, badgering, arguing and, of course, whining, complaining, and bad attitudes.

 How can we address those things in family life?  We believe that there are some very specific strategies that we can use to help these children to recognize what they're going and to change the patterns.  You see, we're helping children when they're young to develop healthy patterns of relating so that when they get older they'll be successful in those relating patterns.  We believe that God has hidden within obedience and honor the success principles that will help that child to grow up to be responsible and a successful adult.

Dennis: Absolutely.

Scott: The ability to be able to do a task without being reminded – that's obedience.  The ability to follow through without having someone check up on you – that's obedience.  Honor means doing more than what's expected.  It means thinking about other people as valuable.  All of those things are hidden within this concept of honor, and if we will teach that to our children, they will have the God-designed principles in their repertoire so that they can be successful adults.

Dennis: You mention in your book that honor focuses on the needs of others, and that's why it's so central to teach our children, because they need to learn that they can't be focused on themselves, and we're now fighting against the real grain of humanity at this point, JoAnn.  How can you begin to train a child to focus on the needs of others?

 Let's take a three-year-old who is whining and complaining about having to pick up the toys in his or her room.  How would you apply that principle right here?

JoAnn: We want to take this concept of honor and teach it to children in a very practical way.  You know, it's kind of a different term when we just think about honor – what is honor, anyway?  So as we've worked with it, we've created a definition of honor that we teach to children.  We say that honor is treating people as special, doing more than what's expected, and having a good attitude.  Then we can take each of those parts of the definition and apply them to family life so we can teach our children to start treating people as special.

Bob: So did you, when your boys were little, sit them at the dinner table or gather them in the living room and say, "Today, Mommy is going to teach you a definition of honor, and I want you to write this down."  How did you get them to connect with what you're talking about?

JoAnn: That's a good question.  How do we start here with our children?  And we start by talking about it.  Even before we're asking them to do anything with the term, we're going to talk about it.  And when they make up a sign to hang on the wall – "Honor is" …  "Obedience is …" and we talk about the terms, we define them.

Dennis: Did you do that?

JoAnn: Yes, we had a sign on the wall.  We have all kinds of signs on our walls.  Another sign we still have on our wall right now is "Three Opportunities for a Good Attitude."  We see that bad attitudes happen in three places –  when children are given an instruction; when they are corrected; or given a "no" answer.  Those are great opportunities for children to show bad attitude, but we can turn that around in a positive sense and say they are opportunities for a good attitude.  That sign is still hanging on my wall.

Dennis: I think we could offer that sign on the Internet, Bob, and we might have some people download it and post it on their refrigerator, because this is a perplexing problem that – some days I would go home, Scott, and I would find my wife, Barbara – she would have had it up to here.  I mean, the whining, the complaining, the griping, the grumbling – the very thing that JoAnn described around honor and treating someone special, doing more than what's expected of you.  Well, to give you an idea here, we actually had a box that was a chore box, and on the side of it was printed the words "For those who care enough to do their very least."

 In other words, we had this chore box and inside it were additional chores that they got when they refused or showed a bad attitude, like you were talking about, JoAnn, when they refused to follow through on something we asked them to do, they would get the privilege of dipping into the chore box and pulling out an additional chore.  And there were some really bad chores in there – cleaning toilet stools, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming the playroom – I mean, these were not fun chores.  It wasn't until years later that the kids actually confessed that they had gone through the chore box and had gotten rid of all the crummy, bad chores in the chore box.  So the little rascals double-crossed us on our very training mechanism here.

Scott: They stuffed the box.

Dennis: Well, they didn't stuff the box.

Bob: They unstuffed it.

Dennis: They pulled some hanging chads out of the box.  But, really, we're dealing with children here who, in their habits of relating to one another, they don't want to treat somebody.

Scott: That's right.

Dennis: They don't want to do more than is expected, they want to do the least they can do and get by with it.

Scott: Yes, you know what we find as we work with families – our own and others – is that some children have that ability to suck the energy right out of family life.  That's a dangerous place for a child to be.  We want children to learn how to add energy back into family life.  How do they do it?  Well, that's all honor.  That's what honor is.  When you treat people as special, or you do more than what's expected, then what you're doing is you are adding energy back into family life.  So if I have a child at 4:00 in the afternoon who tends to create problems before dinnertime, then I might sit that child down at 4:00 and say, "Here is what I'd like you to do.  I'd like you to think of three things you can do to add to FamilyLife in the next hour and a half before we eat.  It might be to compliment someone, babysit a younger child, it might be decorating the table – I want you to think of something that will add to family life."  That's treating people as special.  That's doing more than what's expected.  What we're teaching children to do is to add energy back into family life, not just suck it out.

Dennis: One day in class our professor at Dallas Seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks said to us, "Your children are better students of you than you are of them."  And in this area, I think a parent who continually gets mugged around griping, complaining, bad attitudes, is one where the child has figured out they can confuse mom in a millisecond, they can cause Dad to question his own judgment when he is able to lead a corporation to multimillion-dollar profits.  But at home they turn Dad into a bowl of mush because Dad, all of a sudden, doesn't know what he's talking about.

JoAnn: Children know how to push our buttons.  That's what they like to do.  They like to see where those limits are in their parents and how far can I really push Mom?  Or how far can I push Dad?  And we give the illustration of a boxing ring.  We picture the child in the ring with the boxing gloves on, and they're just inviting Mom or Dad to get in.

Dennis: Come on, make my day.

JoAnn: Come on, go ahead, come on, you know?  "I didn't give you that look?"

Dennis: I dare you.

JoAnn: And what we need to do, as a parent, is not get into the ring.  We need to resist that temptation to jump in the ring and show them a thing or two.  You know, we think, as parents, "I'll put him in his place," and we get right in there.  You know, sometimes you see a teen and a parent going at it, and you figure, "Well, who is really the kid here?"

Dennis: Yeah, really.

JoAnn: And I think, as parents, we need to learn to resist. When our buttons get pushed, we need to stay out of the ring and go around to the side of the child and be the coach, the counselor.  And now we start talking about process instead of issue.  The issue might be the chore you're asking them to do, but the process is how are we going to get this chore done and how are you talking to me about the chore and, you know, we're not going to try and decide whether you really rolled your eyes or not, but how are you treating me right now, because that's where honor comes in.

Bob: All right, well, here is what I want to know – is there something I can do – I can start doing it tomorrow, I do it for 15 minutes a day every day for the next 30 days, and I can make this problem go away in my home.  Have you got a six-step solution that you can give me here, because I need help.

Scott: Bob, what this reminds me of is the signs you see on a telephone pole that say, "30 Pounds 30 Days 30 Dollars."  You know, if there were easy solutions to parenting like that, we could put up a sign that says "How to Find Successful Responsible Kids in Five Easy Steps," we'd sell a million books.  We don't believe that parenting is that easy.  It's one of the toughest jobs in the world.  All we've tried to do here is hone down a different element of it.  The honor dimension deals with the way we relate in family life, and we've tried to give a number of practical principles for parents so they'll know how to put it into practice.

 Here's what we say to parents who are struggling.  We'll say to them, you know, "When you go into a room that's messy, where do you start to clean it up?  You've got things all over the place – dirty clothes, dirty dishes, a mess everywhere you look – what do you do?"  Well, you start with one thing.  You pick up that one thing, and you put it away.  Then you pick up a second thing, and you put it away.  Then you pick up another thing, and you deal with it.  What we're encouraging parents to do is recognize that honor is often a messy room in the family, and what we're trying to do is pick up one thing. 

It might be just – when I talk to you I'd like you to look at me when I'm saying my words.  It may be that I say, "When I give you an instruction, I'd like you to say 'Okay, Mom,' or 'Okay, Dad.'"  We're trying to give parents some practical ideas of what to do, how to do it, to tie this all together in this concept of honor.

Dennis: And I think we dare not forget, as parents, as JoAnn pointed out a few moments ago, that many times it's not about the child, to begin with, it's about us, as parents, and back to my confession at the beginning of the broadcast, Bob.  I feel like one of the things the Lord wanted to work in my life and in Barbara's life was to deal with our complaining, and He's done that.  I think, also, as we help children develop, we're going to have to be the adults, we're going to have to finish the process of growing up and really step into a mature relationship with Christ and not react.  Instead, give children what they need, which is love from a sincere heart that wants to be obedient to Jesus Christ, and we need to bring our lives in line with Scripture.  And, many times, that's not easy because they are tripping their triggers, they are manipulating us, and, at that point, we need some practical encouragement and practical help.

Bob: Yes, and, as parents, I think we also need some understanding.  You know, we gave a definition earlier of what honor is that comes from Scott and JoAnn's book, "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids," and that definition of honor is something that, as parents, we need to lock into our own minds and then begin to transfer it in the family to the children and make it a part of the fabric of our family life.  And I think to do that, I would think it would be helpful to get a copy of the book.  Again, it's called "Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids."  It's in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can go online for more information or to order a copy of the book.

 Go to our website,, and you'll see a button in the middle of the page that says "Go."  When you click on that button, it will take you right to the site that has more information about the book, and you can order from that area as well.

 We also have copies of the brand-new book that Scott and JoAnn have written called "Parenting is Heart Work."  And it's available in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.  In fact, any parents who are interested in getting copies of both books, we are happy to send along at no additional cost the CD audio of this week's conversation with Scott and Joann and, don't forget, on our website you can download the signs that we've talked about today, the signs that the two of you have used in your seminars and that you still use in your home to help remind your children of the principles we've been talking about.

 Again, the website is  You can also get in touch with us by phone at 1-800-FLTODAY, and we've got folks who are here who can help you with any questions you have about these books or can take your order – help you with any questions you have about these resources, or they can take your order over the phone and get the books sent off to you.  Again, the number is 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at

 One of the challenges that we face here at FamilyLife is that every summer, as summer starts to bloom, we begin to see a decline in donations, in financial support for the ministry.  I think that's true for a lot of ministries like ours.  Things get a little slow in the summertime.  And we recently had some friends of the ministry who came to us and said they were aware of the situation we experience in the summer, and they said maybe we can help you head into the summer with some peace of mind.

 So they agreed that they would match any donation that we receive during the month of May on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $350,000.  that means that any listener who this month calls or goes online to make a donation of – we'll say $30 – our friends are going to match that with an additional $30 donation, and so on.  And so we wanted to ask all of our listeners, all of you, to help us take full advantage of this match by making a donation of any amount to FamilyLife during the month of May.  Not only will you help us take full advantage of the match, but you'll help us be prepared for what often comes during the summer – that slowdown in donations.  So, if you can, this month either go to our website,, make a donation online, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone.  We appreciate your standing with us financially, and we appreciate you helping us take advantage of this special matching gift opportunity during the month of May.

 You know, we've talked today about this whole idea of honor – how we can teach our children to honor one another in a family, and I'm just wondering, Scott and JoAnn, do your children ever say to you, "I am so sick of hearing about honor.  Do we have to talk about honor again?"

JoAnn: You know, I'll tell you a fun story.  The other day I was out teaching a seminar on honor, and my husband was home with my two sons, and they were cleaning up the house, doing some vacuuming and getting things straightened up, and when I walked in the door, my 14-year-old said to me, "You know, Mom, when you go out and teach about honor, Dad makes us stay home and do it."


Dennis: Have your kids ever thrown that back at you, though, like Bob just described?

JoAnn: You know, I've got to say, my boys do a really good job with honor.  Sometimes we have trouble with obedience, but honor can be fun.  They enjoy honor because it's just giving a gift.  It's not something we're requiring or taking from them, but it's something they can freely give, and they really do have a vision for that.

Dennis: Scott, you're a pastor by profession.  Your kids have got to be tired of hearing some sermons on honor.  Have they ever said that to you?

Scott: Oh, boy, my wife and I have learned a tremendous amount about parenting recently.  With five teenagers, life is a challenge for us every day, and we do deal with whining and complaining and bad attitudes in our family.  Some of the material that we've developed comes out of our own mistakes and our own weaknesses.  And having learned from them, we believe that there are some things that make families work.  And so we're working on that in our own family with our young people, trying to teach them about honor and trying to honor them in the process.

Bob: And that's where we're going to focus on the broadcast as we continue tomorrow, Dennis, on what works so that we can get to a point where we say goodbye to whining and complaining and bad attitudes.  I think that's heaven, isn't it?

Dennis: You asked that question earlier, and I almost answered – on the other side of the gates will we be free of this totally.

Bob: I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  I hope you'll be back with us tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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Episodes in this Series

Character Development Day
Three Roadblocks to Harmony
with Joanne Miller, Scott Turansky May 5, 2006
Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller talk about three roadblocks to sibling harmony: selfishness, foolishness and anger.
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Character Development Day 4
Six Ways to Teach Honor to Children, Part 2
with Joanne Miller, Scott Turansky May 4, 2006
Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller tell parents how to stop whining before it starts.
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Character Development Day 3
Six Ways to Teach Honor to Children, Part 1
with Joanne Miller, Scott Turansky May 3, 2006
Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller tell parents how to discourage their children from whining.
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